My Musings

I Believe in You

I Believe in You

(In Loving Memory of Dan Anders, c. 1936 – 1999)

When I first met Dan and Judy Anders in the summer of 1986, I was a stranger strung out on their bed moaning over aches and pains from head to toe. While playing a pick-up game of hoops at Pepperdine University (Malibu, California), I was stopped cold by a solid steel volleyball post fixed firmly in the gym floor. No one bothered to remove it before playing. The next thing I knew, I was on a stretcher headed for an ambulance. The temporary transformation from basketball player to basket case was instantaneous.

After some x-rays and observation, I was released from the emergency room but was in no condition to drive twenty miles to be home alone with a head injury. I ended up resting all day long under the hospital-like hospitality of two kind strangers: Dan and Judy Anders.

My physical injuries healed just in time for my girlfriend in Louisiana to terminate a relationship that I hoped would lead to marriage. My bodily collision with a steel post was like a brush with a feather compared to this blow to my heart. Instead of sprinting, this time I was soaring in the clouds and, as usual, never saw it coming. Again, Dan Anders (now my minister) was there to hold my hand and heart.

Prayer Partners

Dan and I both graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary at different times and this animated some of our early conversations. We became prayer partners, which soon turned into weeping sessions for me. I recall a letter from my ex-girlfriend which I held on to, unread, until my next prayer time with Dan. It contained painful realities that neither Dan nor I could change. Such is often the case in prayer partnerships.

Months later, while Dan and Judy were on vacation, I received a post card with a bird pictured on one side and a simple sentence on the other; “I believe in you!” Signed, “Dan.” My belief in myself was so far from my grasp that the sentence seemed uncanny. How could anyone believe in a rejected basket-case like me, at that time, rejected both in love and in my career quest to be a preacher. Still, I did not doubt Dan’s written words.

Integrity in the Pulpit

I sat under Dan’s preaching for many years. At first, I was struggling as a preacher wannabe and later, he was fighting the cancer that eventually took his life. Richard Baxter, the 17th century Puritan divine, said, “I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” Dan did just that. There was nothing sloppy about his preaching, especially in the smooth honest way he documented his sources, a rare quality today. There were no fancy gimmicks or narcissistic tendencies in his sermons. He simply had a firm grasp on the substance and force of the biblical text. His mentoring influence on me was rich, offered in genuine humility.

Dan and the Devil

In Loving Memory of Dan

Dan preached one of my all-time favorite sermons at the Pepperdine Lectures near the end of his life. It was on the temptations of Christ by the devil in the wilderness. Dan described Jesus refusing to let Satan overhaul his mission and make it about mere bread, shortcuts or personal splendor. Putting second things first was not an option for Jesus. Thanks to Dan’s sermon, I still feel the force of what was at stake when the devil tried to sneak under Jesus’ skin in the wilderness. Dan Anders–in all his physical weakness while suffering from cancer–had Satan’s tricky number, dead to rights.

I’m not the only Christian who hits brick walls and steel posts, so to speak. I’m actually grateful for that post today since it opened the door to a friendship with Dan, who also faced major unwanted obstacles standing in his way. He could not always change them or knock them down. But he showed us all, in the midst of profound helplessness, that we can always take comfort in the immovability of Jesus Christ (as seen, for instance, in his faithfulness to God in the face of temptation). I get a special joy when I recall Dan’s skill in portraying that conniving adversary in the wilderness running into a solid steel post named Jesus.

 

The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

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About the Author:

Joel graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A., completing two majors: Art and Religion. He went on to earn the Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

Discussion

  1. Claire  August 6, 2012

    Oh, Joel, you’re making me cry! You have been richly blessed. And I have been richly blessed in knowing you.

    (reply)
    • Joelsolliday  August 12, 2012

      The blessing is mutual!!!!!!

      (reply)

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